In 2006, Sarvodaya started a project with IDRC funding to help the burgeoning telecenters (under various names) learn from each other and solve the problems they faced in an environment marked by rapidly changing technology and consumer demand. As part of this effort, Sarvodaya Fusion organized two training sessions at the MAS Institute of Management and Technology in Tulhiriya.
The presentation that Helani Galpaya and I did (Sujata and Chanuka ran a parallel session) included components on innovation in service industries, the external environment that made innovation so important for telecenter operators, and systematic learning from failures. Because we had to work with multiple languages, it was not possible to cover all the slides, which are here.
One of the things we noticed was that there appeared to be two different kinds of problems: the first kind could be fixed through process innovation; the second kind was structural and required remedies that were outside the scope of an event like this. An example of the latter is location. When the telecenters under e Sri Lanka were first planned, the principle was that they could not unfairly compete with existing unsubsidized communication bureaus and that there had to be no other telecenters near their locations. Yet we found that this principle is being violated in the rush to put as many telecenters in place as possible. In some cases location decisions had been made on the basis of promises of connectivity, which had not been fully met.
So with the next offering, we will say upfront that structural problems are outside the scope and focus the participants on the solveable issues.